News Thursday, OCTOBER 29th, 1998

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Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. I'm Pauline Newman, first let's take a look at the main headlines of the day:

You are tuned to Radio Prague, those were the headlines, now let's take a look at the news in full:

Havel / Anniversary

Czech President Vaclav Havel on Wednesday evening, gave a speech at Prague castle marking the 80th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia.

He spoke of Thomas Garrigue Masaryk's role in the creation of an independent state and said that the first Czechoslovak President saw the event in a European and world wide context.

Havel paid tribute to Masaryk saying he had a been a modern politician of vision, who looked past the present to the future and had searched for partners to take part in what today would be called "a collective defence system".

The Czech President said that it is now possible for the country to become a full part of Europe, a move which will assure a safe future for generations to come while stressing that much work still lies ahead.

He later went on to decorate almost 90 people with honours, such as the famous Czech "Order of the White Lion". 24 people were decorated in memorium, the rest were a collection of scientists, doctors, sports personalities and writers.

Vaclav Havel spent Wednesday celebrating the 80th anniversary of the founding of an independent Czechoslovakia. He began in the morning by placing flowers at the foot of the statue on Wencelsas Square and later at the grave of the unknown soldier in a Prague cemetery.

Czech Premier Milos Zeman and Chairman of the Czech Parliament Vaclav Klaus arrived at the cemetery shortly afterwards and also placed flowers on the grave.

Later Vaclav Havel took part in a swearing in ceremony of new soldiers at Prague castle and met with almost a hundred foreign diplomats. In a short speech, he said the Czech Republic was ready to assume full European responsibility and become an integral part of today's world. Many of the diplomats present represent member states of NATO and the European Union.

On the occasion of the anniversary, Czech Premier Milos Zeman said Prague politicians should use the day wisely and not make empty statements and speeches. He was speaking at a meeting of the Czech Union of Freedom Fighters in Prague. Mr Zeman spoke of the importance of national integrity and consciousness as opposed to what he referred to as "a hamburger culture".

Leaders of the four right wing coalition parties, the Christian Democrats, the Freedom Union, the Civic Democratic Alliance or the ODA and the Democratic Union all expressed their disappointment at the celebrations on Wednesday. They made it clear that they would like to see a more dignified day of remembrance.

ODA Chairman Daniel Kroupa said the celebrations struck him as being a private affair among individuals rather than a nationwide matter.

Freedom Union leader Jan Ruml, stressed the importance of the event and said it had been undermined and negated during the communist era.

Christian Democrat chief Jan Kasal said he would like to see more celebrations on a national level and that Prague should fly more flags and celebrate more openly.

Soldiers / Crash

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana offered his condolences on Wednesday in Brussels after three Czech soldiers died in Bosnia over the weekend.

Czech ambassador to NATO Karel Kovanda told CTK press agency that Solana will also offer his condolences to the Prague government and the families of the three who died.

The soldiers were killed when a helicopter crashed in the western part of Bosnia Herzogovina on Sunday. The Czech defence Ministry has so far not been able to determine the reasons for the crash.

Trial / Spy

A court in Austria on Wednesday cleared a Czech man who used to work in the Embassy in Vienna during the communist era of espionage. He stood accused of having informed on dissidents and members of the Czech clergy living in exile in Austria. Although identified in 1994 as an agent, who went by the name of "Ludek", the court decided on Wednesday that the man had not actually damaged Austrian interests at all.

The media has expressed surprise at the results, since the trial took place at a a time when much controversy surrounds former Viennese Mayor Helmut Zilk, also suspected of having collaborated with the Czechoslovak secret police.

Parliament / Salary

Finally, the Czech parliament is currently debating the abolition of the so- called fourteenth salary, the annual double pay packet for politicians, judges and attorneys. This measure is expected to save some 230 million crowns in the state budget.

And we end as usual with a brief look at the weather:

Thursday will be another cloudy windy day, with daytime temperatures reaching 11 degrees celsius, dropping overnight to five degrees celsius. Although in the south, there will be some brighter spells, we are expecting rain throughout the day over Prague and some snow in the mountains.

I'm Pauline Newman and that's all from the newsroom this hour.